Sunday, June 28, 2009
Poor "F"...this forlorn letter gets a bad rap in our culture. All I have to do is mention the "F" word and many of you can taste soap. It is certainly not the desired letter of any student.
But when it comes to parties, there are a trio of "F" words essential to a good time. Friends. Food. Fun. I'd like to propose a fourth...Farm.
Okay, I know for lots of us urban types the idea of a farm party conjures up images of hoedowns, square dancing, twangy music, and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Not exactly on the coolometer and sure to ruin your Manolo's (or maybe not since this is more of the Keens/Birkenstock region of the country).
Ever since our first glimpse of "Farm to Table" on PBS, my husband and I have been dying to try the just-picked, chef-prepared, out-in-the-orchard meal. You know, strawberries picked off the plant right over there and sliced into your salad. Or roasted chicken that was scratching around in that pen just this morning.
Northwesterners are really lucky to have so many options for locally grown food. And so my husband decided to do a little research because my 30th birthday was fast approaching and he loves to spoil me with great parties and gifts (yes, I have a great man).
And this is where Google came in handy. He quickly came across Dog Mountain Farm, located in Carnation, WA just 30 minutes from Kirkland. The owners David and Cindy Krepky have teamed up with local chefs to present Farm Dinners to the public. Eight years ago they bought this land and have spent their time transforming this wooded hilltop into a beautiful food-producing bit of acreage. Farm Dinners are their way of sharing the place they love with others and garnering interest in local, sustainable crops and animals.
This seemed the perfect way to usher in my thirties. Fortunately, FoodBuzz agreed, helping sponsor a really great evening by featuring my party in their 24, 24, 24 for June.
Chef Eric Wright (the W Hotel, Sorrento Hotel Hunt Club, former executive chef of Cactus restaurants) prepared the evening's meal and also educated us on the Slow Food Movement. He is the founding member of the Slow Food Snoqualmie Valley Convivium, part of the greater movement. Slow Food started in Rome as a protest against fast food, namely a McDonald's opening up across from Rome's iconic Spanish Steps. It's goals are quite simple...slow down, cook fresh food, enjoy your meals.
All week I kept checking the weather forecast, scared to death that it would be cold and rainy. It was needless worrying, or as my mom would say "borrowing trouble." I couldn't have asked for a nicer day. Clear, sunny, and very warm (a little hot, in fact, as my pink shoulders can attest).
Upon arrival we were greeted with a Spanish sparkling wine (Cava) and a Spanish tortilla with farm-fresh eggs, roasted asparagus and pepper, topped with goat cheese and begonia petals. Come to find out, Spanish tortillas don't actually contain what we think of as a "tortilla". It is more of a frittata type of idea.
Then came the farm tour, which had me thankful I'd bought the flats instead of those racy heels (although I should have gone with the 8 1/2 like my sister warned...and ended up with some blistered feet). Owner Cindy was our guide.
We met the draft horses, beautiful dapple grays who craved each other's company, performing every head turn in tandem. Cindy said, "Life is short. I want my horses," purchasing them from an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania.
The orchard is full of fruit trees. Cider apples, all manner of pears, quince trees, cherry trees. Honey bee hives help everything pollinate. They lost a few apricot trees to the very cold weather this past winter.
Their standard is no spraying with anything. So, if a plant variety has insect problems, they yank it and plant something else.
The vegetable garden teemed with greens, peas, and weeds. Lots of weeds. In fact, she doesn't pull most weeds which totally surprised me. But she's the certified Master Gardener, so maybe I'll defer to her knowledge and stop pulling mine!
We peeked at all of the chickens and ducks, some kept for their eggs and some for their meat. Her French breed chickens are showcased in some local restaurants including Boat Street Cafe. Due to her recent layoff from her corporate job (a blessing, she assured me) more birds are in the meat category now. It pays the bills better than eggs.
The most amazing plants, though, were the hothouse tomatoes. Who knew that tomato vines could reach 35 feet in length? They are grown two roots to a bag of sawdust. No soil! They get all their nutrients from the "vitamin" water which is dispersed to the plants via a solar panel system. Therefore, when the weather is sunny and warm, the plants are fed quite often, growing rapidly. During cold, dark times, the plants "sleep".
After that education, we were all ready for dinner. Three long rows of tables sitting about 48 people (it was full!) perched beautifully in the orchard with a view of the Cascades.
First served was Green Soup featuring white beans, kale from the garden, grilled spring onions, fresh new lettuce, and herb pistou (Chef Eric explained "pistou" as pesto without the cheese). It was fabulous and brilliantly paired with Red Sky's 2007 Semillon, a crisp herbal white wine.
We had ample time between courses to enjoy the company of friends and family. With me and my husband were my parents, my sister, my best girlfriend, and our favorite friends from Portland.
Next out came the salad course. Grilled apriums (an apricot-plum mix strongly favoring the apricot), pimenton (smoked paprika) with charred Italian chicory, blue cheese, toasted almonds, and a Crianza wine vinaigrette. The dressing was amazing and quite creamy in texture. Our friends from Red Sky treated us to their 2008 Merlot Rose, in their words, "not your grandmother's rose." Bone dry and lusciously cherry in color, it was probably the favorite of most in my dinner party.
For the main course, we had grilled wild sockeye salmon (Chef Eric prefers their flavor to the King Salmon) with grilled corn cakes, herb salad (parsley and basil), cucumber-citrus-jicama salsa, and both red and green chili sauces. Red Sky's 2005 Syrah rounded out the flavors. The salmon was moist (thank goodness, nothing is worse than dry salmon!), the salsa was juicy and bright, the chili sauces had nice heat. The corn cake could have used the love of some hot oil in a frying pan, but sadly that was not a possibility in the farm kitchen setup.
And finally, Chef Eric pulled on his extensive Mexican food repertoire producing an amazing dessert. Vanilla flan with caramel sauce, garnished with cherry compote. The cherries had been cooked in Jonesy Tawney Port (Australia) which was also served in a small glass with dessert. Three cheers for this dessert!!
While the party ended shortly thereafter for most of my guests (and everyone else), there was more to come for us and our Portland friends. We opted to spend the night. They pitched their tent in the field and we slept in the newly installed yurt tent, complete with a beautiful bed, plush rugs, and a little breakfast table.
The boys dragged out a great fire pit to roast marshmallows and we relaxed the evening away watching the sun set on the Cascade mountains. Before retiring for the evening, we star-gazed at the vast Milky Way clearly visible in the dark countryside.
After a breakfast of blueberry coffee cake, fresh strawberries, melon and cherries, thick salty bacon, and two superbly cooked duck eggs we left Dog Mountain Farm, site of an amazing 30th birthday party.